Misselden, Edward (DNB00)

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MISSELDEN, EDWARD (fl. 1608–1654), merchant and economic writer, was deputy-governor of the Merchant Adventurers' Company at Delft from 1623 until 1633. Upon his departure from England (October 1623) the East India Company invited him to act as one of their commissioners at Amsterdam to negotiate a private treaty with the Dutch. He appears to have been well qualified for the position. He was 'reputed a proper merchant and a good civilian' (Court Minutes, 17-21 Oct. 1623; State Papers, East Indies), and had probably been employed by the Merchant Adventurers' Company in 1616 in a similar capacity (Carleton Letters, 1615-16-1620, pp. 63, 64). His fellow-commissioner was Robert Barlow, East India merchant. The negotiations, however, were fruitless, owing chiefly to the unreasonable attitude of the Dutch. Upon the report of the outrages at Amboyna new difficulties arose, and Misselden himself suffered from ill-health. He returned to England, and presented to the company an account of the negotiations (3 Nov. 1624). The court acknowledged that 'he had failed in no point of sufficiency or integrity, and so, in respect he was sickly, wished him to take his ease.' He received 100l. as 'a token of the well-acceptance of his services.' He returned to Delft at the end of November 1624, and during the next four years he was again employed by the East India Company in their attempts to obtain satisfaction for the outrages at Amboyna. He was also entrusted with the negotiations on behalf of the Merchant Adventurers' Company for a reduction of the duties on English cloth (Court Minutes, 3 Feb. 162; Ashmolean MS. 831, f. 251). Carleton, the English ambassador at the Hague, believed that he had been bribed by the Dutch to secretly undermine the influence of the two companies in Holland, but there is no evidence of the truth of this accusation, and the East India Company rewarded him (27 June 1628) for 'his great pains about the business of Amboyna.' The States-General, on the other hand, suspected him of compromising their interests by sending secret information to England, and confronted him (October 1628) with some of his letters. 'But when he had given his answers they had not much to say '(Misselden to Lord Dorchester, 18 Oct. 1628, State Papers, East Indies). He was so aggrieved at his treatment that he declined to have anything further to do with the East India Company's affairs. His case, however, was taken up by the privy council, and reparation was made (Court Minutes, 24 and 26 Nov. 1628).

Misselden threw himself heartily into Laud's schemes for bringing the practice of the English congregations abroad into conformity with that of the church of England. The merchant adventurers at Delft were strongly presbyterian, and John Forbes, their preacher, exercised great influence. Misselden's attempts to thrust the prayer-book upon them were met by plots to eject him from his position, and he and Forbes were ‘irreconcilably at variance’ (William Boswell to the council, 18 March 1633, State Papers, Dom. Ser.) He was ultimately turned out, and the company chose in his place Samuel Avery, an ardent presbyterian. Two years later (1635) abortive attempts were made to obtain his election as deputy-governor at Rotterdam, and the king addressed a letter to the Merchant Adventurers' Company vainly recommending them to deprive Robert Edwards, whom they had recently chosen for that post (the king to the merchant adventurers, 19 May 1635, ib.) His aid in thrusting the prayer-book on the merchant adventurers did not constitute Misselden's sole claim to recognition; he had furnished Philip Burlamachi with large sums for the king's service, of which, in May 1633, 13,000l. remained unpaid. He was to be satisfied out of Burlamachi's estate ‘as soon as possible.’

Misselden was subsequently employed by the Merchant Adventurers' Company on various missions. A rumour at the end of 1649 that he was to be appointed deputy at Hamburg gave some dissatisfaction, for he was ‘reported to be not only a royal malignant but a scandalous man in his life and conversation’ (Walter Strickland to the council of state, 23-13 Dec. 1649; Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 207). He was at Hamburg in the following year on some business of the merchant adventurers. He was ‘well-accepted’ and likely to ‘prove very serviceable to the company’ (Richard Bradshaw to my Lord President, 3 Sept. 1650, Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 430). It is probable that he was at this time trying to find favour with the parliament. Four years later he addressed a letter to Cromwell, pointing out his previous services (Thurloe, iii. 13). He had furnished the council of state with maps of Holland and Brabant, particulars relative to the navigation of the Scheldt, and a narrative of the Amboyna negotiations. But he ‘never received an answere, nor soe much as his charges for lawyers' fees, and length of time, study, and labour.’

Misselden's economic writings were primarily called forth by the appointment of the standing commission on trade (1622). In his ‘Free Trade, or the Means to make Trade flourish,’ London, 1622, he discussed the causes of the alleged decay of trade, which he attributed to the excessive consumption of foreign commodities, the exportation of bullion by the East India Company, and defective searching in the cloth trade. His object appears to have been to disarm the opposition to the regulated companies, especially the Merchant Adventurers', and turn it against the joint-stock associations. The views which he put forth on the East India trade are inconsistent with those which he advocated in the following year. Gerard Malynes [q. v.] immediately attacked his pamphlet, urging in opposition the principles of foreign exchange with which his name is identified. In reply Misselden published ‘The Circle of Commerce, or the Ballance of Trade, in Defence of Free Trade, opposed to Malynes’ “Little Fish and his Great Whale,” and poized against them in the Scale,’ London, 1623, 4to. After refuting Malynes's views, and stating a substantially accurate theory of exchange, he discussed the balance of trade. He defended the exportation of bullion on the ground that by the re-exportation of the commodities which the country was thus enabled to purchase the treasure of the nation was augmented. His theory of the balance of trade differs in no important respect from that which was afterwards elaborated by Thomas Mun [q. v.] Like Mun, Misselden lived at one time at Hackney; the two writers must have been brought into close relations with each other during the Amboyna negotiations.

[The authorities quoted; Gardiner's History, vii. 315; Clarendon State Papers, 1621, p. 184; Cal. State Papers, East Indies, 1621-9 passim; State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1611-43; Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p.174, 12th Rep. i. 465, 467. For Misselden's economic views vide authorities quoted under Gerard Malynes and Thomas Mun.]

W. A. S. H.